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Board of Education “Executive Sessions”

June 27, 2010

In our ongoing effort to offer information about issues that are of concern to constituents of School District 38, we would like to address some misunderstandings about “closed door” Executive sessions of the Board of Education.

The Board of Education generally holds 3 types of official meetings (when 3 or more members of the Board are present, it constitutes an official meeting):

  • Regular (held during the school year once a month)
  • Special (for a specific purpose, or as a work session to cover multiple items of business)
  • Executive (which can only be held for specific reasons in accordance with Colorado State Statutes)

The public must be notified at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. An agenda that discloses the items to be covered at the meeting must also be made available. The District uses its website as the official public posting place for these items.

All meetings are open to the public, with the exception of Executive Sessions.

Here are some of the statutes with some annotations referring to these meetings (statutes of section 24 are known as “Sunshine Laws”):

24-6-401. Declaration of policy.

It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.

ANNOTATION

Such legislation does not generally repeal conflicting special statutory or constitutional provisions unless the intent to do so is clear and unmistakable. Associated Students of Univ. of Colo. v. Regents of Univ. of Colo., 189 Colo. 482, 543 P.2d 59 (1975).

The public meetings laws are interpreted broadly to further the legislative intent that citizens be given a greater opportunity to become fully informed on issues of public importance so that meaningful participation in the decision-making process may be achieved. Cole v. State, 673 P.2d 345 (Colo. 1983).

22-32-108. Meetings of the board of education.

5) (a) All regular and special meetings of the board shall be open to the public, but any person who disturbs good order may be required to leave. At any regular or special meeting the board may proceed in executive session, at which only those persons invited by the board may be present, but no final policy decisions shall be made by the board while in executive session.

24-6-402. Meetings – open to public – definitions.

(4) The members of a local public body subject to this part 4, upon the announcement by the local public body to the public of the topic for discussion in the executive session, including specific citation to the provision of this subsection (4) authorizing the body to meet in an executive session and identification of the particular matter to be discussed in as much detail as possible without compromising the purpose for which the executive session is authorized, and the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the quorum present, after such announcement, may hold an executive session only at a regular or special meeting and for the sole purpose of considering any of the following matters; except that no adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action, except the review, approval, and amendment of the minutes of an executive session recorded pursuant to subparagraph (II) of paragraph (d.5) of subsection (2) of this section, shall occur at any executive session that is not open to the public:

(a) The purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer, or sale of any real, personal, or other property interest; except that no executive session shall be held for the purpose of concealing the fact that a member of the local public body has a personal interest in such purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer, or sale;

(b) Conferences with an attorney for the local public body for the purposes of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions. Mere presence or participation of an attorney at an executive session of the local public body is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of this subsection (4).

(c) Matters required to be kept confidential by federal or state law or rules and regulations. The local public body shall announce the specific citation of the statutes or rules that are the basis for such confidentiality before holding the executive session.

(d) Specialized details of security arrangements or investigations, including defenses against terrorism, both domestic and foreign, and including where disclosure of the matters discussed might reveal information that could be used for the purpose of committing, or avoiding prosecution for, a violation of the law;

(e) Determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiations; developing strategy for negotiations; and instructing negotiators;

(f) (I) Personnel matters except if the employee who is the subject of the session has requested an open meeting, or if the personnel matter involves more than one employee, all of the employees have requested an open meeting. With respect to hearings held pursuant to the “Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act of 1990”, article 63 of title 22, C.R.S., the provisions of section 22-63-302 (7) (a), C.R.S., shall govern in lieu of the provisions of this subsection (4).

The statute most often cited by the D-38 Board (especially in light of all of the staff cuts that have been required the past two school years) is the last one listed, C.R.S. 24-6-402 (f)(I).

While many in the public feel a need to know exactly what and why something is happening with a District employee, there are reasons and laws as to why they should be kept confidential.

One reason is that it is in the District’s best interest to safeguard itself from all adverse publicity. This is generally for the best of the schools and the community.

Also, it is necessary to protect all employees. Employees may leave for personal reasons they wish to remain personal. Or they may be charged with allegations that turn out to be false. While vindicated in the end, just the allegation could be damaging to them and their professional reputation.

There is a safeguard to the public if an employee is let go for good cause, even though the discussions are conducted in private. The law requires that school boards file information with the state when employees are dismissed for specific reasons. So if there is a real issue or threat, any potential future employer would be given that information.

An employee who may wish to have all information regarding their employment discussed openly, has that right. As explained in the last section quoted above, they can request their meeting not be conducted in private, but publicly.

So the question is; How much information can be given to the public, without it being too much? There seems to be a precarious line between the public’s right to information and an individual’s right to privacy and protection.

It appears our current Board, as well as previous Boards, have tended to error on the side of the least information possible.

Board Vice-President Robb Pike spoke directly to this topic after the vote to accept Dr. Blanch’s resignation on June 17, 2010. He sympathized with the public’s desire to know about what goes on when it comes to an employee of the District. He talked about personnel issues being a sort of “sacred ground.” He said he would protect this fiercely because if they opened the door even a little, that would allow it to remain open for all employees.


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Categories: Informational
  1. Former Teacher
    July 3, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I would like to thank the board for this explanation. I know they can’t give details but this helps to “swallow the pill.” It is this kind of transparency that we have been looking for!!

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